The RAPID program [RTB (roots, tubers, and bananas) accelerator for rapid propagation innovations and distribution of seeds] is focused on piloting and testing market potential for innovative seed multiplication technologies and distribution models to improve smallholder farmer access to new, higher-yielding, and disease-resistant banana varieties in the Great Lakes region of Africa.
The accelerator bridges the gap between public sector breeding research and the production value chain through a grant-making Innovation Fund, with the goal of commercializing the seed sector for East African highland bananas (EAHB). Field activities focus on working with seed sector players such as tissue culture (TC) labs, seed nurseries, and research centers in Uganda and Tanzania.
Theory for Change
The RAPID program seeks to enable new business models using rapid-multiplication technologies to drive private sector investment into banana seed systems.
Phase One: Seed Sector Landscaping 2019 - 2020 East Africa market landscape study identifying existing seed companies and production volumes.
Phase Two: Pilot Validation 2020 - 2021 Prototype-scale matching grants distributed for innovative validation pilots set to run for one year.
Phase Three: Testing at Scale 2021 - 2023 Two-year scale-up matching grants disbursed to build successful pilots into viable market solutions.
The RAPID program innovation fund is designed to issue matching grants that catalyze seed sector company growth. Upon completion of the Market Landscaping Study, an open call for proposals solicited applications from around 40 companies for funding to pilot and test-at-scale new technologies and models driving improvements in operational efficiency, unit pricing, and seed production volumes to improve seed businesses benefit to farmers.
Applications were submitted by private-sector banana seed companies from across Great Lakes region of Africa with a focus on Uganda and Tanzania. Proposal innovations varied across the spectrum, from new functional lab technologies and process innovations, to nursery operations advancements and improved distribution pathways to banana producers.
Validation Phase matching grants for one-year pilots have a funding range of $10k to $15k. A dozen private-sector seed companies were selected with the aim of validating seed production innovations.
In the Scaling Phase, two-year scale-up matching grants of $75k to $120k will be offered to the top five to seven performing pilots.